Variances at risk for certain counties due to rising coronavirus cases

El Paso, Custer, and Chaffee Counties all on list
Variances at risk for certain counties due to rising coronavirus cases
Posted at 1:28 AM, Jul 22, 2020

EL PASO COUNTY — More than a dozen Colorado counties are at risk of having their variances revoked if they cannot slow the spread of coronavirus in their communities. El Paso, Custer, and Chaffee Counties all have two weeks to reverse their increases of coronavirus cases in order to maintain their variances.

Governor Jared Polis also issued an executive order on Tuesday suspending alcohol sales after 10:00 p.m. for establishments with a liquor license. The order will last for the next 30 days, and goes into effect on Thursday morning. According to the governor, the goal is to reduce irresponsible behavior that can spread the virus.

Phantom Canyon has taken the reopening process slowly, to ensure they are doing it in the best way possible. The restaurant has already limited their hours, closing at 9:00 p.m. most days and 10:00 p.m. on weekends. So, they will already be complying with the governor's new order. "It's a difficult thing to manage with all of the rules, for sure. We're doing our best to stay on top of it, and I know we may be a little more strict than other places right now, but we want to keep our doors open," said Cristine Jakubek, a manager at Phantom Canyon.

Jakubek said she hopes the community can come together to try and slow the spread of coronavirus, to avoid the local variances being revoked. "I think a lot of us don't want to live there, in that idea of closing again. It took so much to get back open and just get people back to work," said Jakubek.

El Paso County Commissioner Holly Williams said she wants to work hard in the next two weeks to make the local numbers of coronavirus cases decrease, and eventually transition into the Protect your Neighbors phase. "Now that we've gotten several of our businesses open, we want to keep moving that forward," said Williams.

Williams said it is not specified if one or all of El Paso County's variances would be revoked. "I don't think that he [Governor Polis] would actually take away the variances," said Williams.

She imagines the community would return to having a greater number of restrictions, rather than variances being pulled.

Williams also explained the most recent positivity rate trends for the county. "The governor has set a standard that we need to be for 14 days under a 5% positivity rate. So right now, over the weekend we went up to 10%, but we are back down to 7%. So, we're going in the right direction as of yesterday and today [Monday and Tuesday]... The hard thing is to make sure that we get it down for two weeks," said Williams.

Counties have been asked by the state to submit a plan detailing how they will be addressing the rising number of cases in their community. El Paso County Public Health said they have already sent off their mitigation plan, and as they understand it, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will be checking in early next week to gauge the progress.

Throughout the entire scope of this pandemic, El Paso County Public Health and the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management (which includes numerous partners) have been planning, preparing, and focused on prevention. Regarding the current mitigation process as it relates to variances, based on increasing incidence and positivity rates, Public Health has been proactive in monitoring data and self-reported concerns to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). After multiple conversations and subsequent guidance from CDPHE, Public Health has been proactive in submitting a mitigation plan to CDPHE on July 13 and CDPHE provided two weeks for implementation. While information is rapidly evolving, based on our current understanding, next steps will include a follow-up conversation with CDPHE. We anticipate CDPHE will reach out early next week to check in. This will likely involve a discussion and assessment of the current data, trends, and local disease burden levels, as well as what next steps are and additional steps that may be needed moving forward. This is an iterative, ongoing process with CDPHE as we work to mitigate the disease burden in our county.

We take this very seriously, and are concerned about our increasing cases and hospitalizations. We are committed to doing everything possible to keep our numbers down. It’s imperative that as a community we act now to slow the spread of COVID-19 with these prevention measures:

  1. Practice social distancing
  2. Wear a face covering in public indoor spaces
  3. Wash hands frequently
  4. Keep gatherings small (limit interactions to less than 10, and try to maintain 10 consistent contacts)
  5. Stay home when sick
Michelle Hewitt, El Paso County Public Health

Here is the full list of counties at risk of losing their variances:

  • Prowers
  • Mineral
  • Grand
  • Garfield
  • Douglas
  • Denver
  • Custer
  • Chaffee
  • Broomfield
  • Arapahoe
  • Adams
  • Larimer
  • El Paso
  • Eagle
  • Pitkin